WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Emanuel Gutman and Pedro Bazan can eat pizza, play an NBA video game and converse with friends and schoolmates without missing a bite, play or word of conversation.
Children and teens from 5 to 19 play computer and online video games from an hour to as many as four hours each day as the video game industry creates a never-ending supply of entertainment for home video, laptop and telephone play.
"You can't play for more than and hour or two a day or it can really get boring," said Gutman as he played a basketball video game at the James Harmon Community Center in Hastings-On-Hudson after-school program. "Parents can check what we're doing, but kids have to control their own time."
Andrea Altshuler, a child and adolescent psychotherapist who has been practicing for 10 years, now in Ardsley, said families have health concerns about video game play.
"There are real concerns about video game use because they can be accessed on computers, iPads, telephones and by children as young as 3 and 4," Altshuler said. "The most important thing is for parents to know their children and to communicate. Each child responds differently to activities. The use of video games should be monitored and parents should openly discuss content when they see that the games may not be appropriate."
Altshuler said some youngsters can manage their time and use of games and others can easily become addicted to the activity.
"We can't totally limit the activity and children don't live in a bubble, so it is very important to teach young children self-control and to look for any negatives, like extended time, problems in school and over aggressive behavior," she said.
The Mothers Against Video Game Addiction and Violence organization says video game play is the world's fastest-growing addiction and the most reckless endangerment of children.
"Video games are not just in the business of 'fun' anymore. In 2002, the video game industry generated $10.3 billion in record-breaking sales, surpassing the film industry," the MAVAV website says.
Signs of video game abuse include long hours of play, poor grades, sleep deprivation, eye strain, muscle stiffness and headaches.
Bazan said his mother Miriam, who was nearby with her two other children in the community center play area, doesn't allow any "play" until homework is done.
"A lot of kids who are alone at home and can play for hours with no supervision," Bazan said. "That's a problem I think, especially with violent or adult games. We're not into those games."
Miriam Bazan said she believes the games are a safe entertainment after schoolwork and chores are done.
"You have to be in control of the kids and the things they do," she said. "Children have access to computers from an early age and a lot of what they do is good for learning, recreation. You just have to be sure what kind of games they are playing."
Tahira James said she plays some online and video games but believes boys enjoy the activity more.
"I play some, but I know boys really play a lot more than girls," James said. "There can be problems when kids are alone, playing violent games. I know the kid that killed the school children in (Newtown) Connecticut (Adam Lanza) played for hours with no one paying attention."
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